Is Technology Always the Winner?
1 Samuel 13:16-23
16And Saul and Jonathan his son and the people who were present with them stayed in Geba of Benjamin, but the Philistines encamped in Michmash. 17And raiders came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies. One company turned toward Ophrah, to the land of Shual; 18another company turned toward Beth-horon; and another company turned toward the border that looks down on the Valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness. 19Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.” 20But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle, 21and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads. 22So on the day of the battle there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people with Saul and Jonathan, but Saul and Jonathan his son had them. 23And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.
We live in a time, just as our ancestors did, when the nation with the biggest weaponry rules the world. No one wants to go up against superior fire-power. Almost daily we hear of attempts to keep the nations of the world that are ruled by despots from having nuclear capabilities. That’s the “biggest gun” today. Nothing has changed in thousands of years. As Israel stands on the brink of battle, they face a difficult challenge. The Philistines are armed with iron swords. There are only two people in all of Israel’s army who have similar weapons and that is the king and his son. So you have an army armed with iron weapons against a smaller army armed with slingshots and arrows. The odds are not swinging in the favor of Israel. The Philistines are the biggest bullies on the block.
There was another pressing problem for Saul’s troops however. The narrator notes that Israelites did not have the technical expertise to work with iron. This was nearing the end of what is commonly termed Iron Age I in Palestine (1200–1000bc). Apparently the Philistines had acquired iron technology and had sought to keep knowledge of it from Israel in order to deny the Israelites the ability to make weapons. We are told that the Israelites had to go to the Philistines to have their iron farm implements sharpened, which also gave the Philistines a lucrative monopoly. As a consequence only the most well-to-do Israelites could afford to own iron weapons. In this case, only Saul and Jonathan had them. Pressing their advantage, the Philistines moved south into Michmash Pass toward Saul’s camp in Geba.
Steinmann, A. E. (2016). 1 Samuel. (p. 244). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.
As this story unfolds, we will find that God is not stymied by superior fire-power. But, for today, let’s consider the circumstance that finds us in the place of the underdog. I think that we often see ourselves in this position. It may not be an accurate understanding of the circumstance, but our impressions are powerful and can cause us to lean one way or another. I would suggest we always lean in the direction of God and let Him work out the details. Since God doesn’t really care about the weaponry of our enemies, perhaps neither should we. Time and again in the Bible we find His people in a place of victory in spite of overwhelming odds.
We are, of course, limited to what we are able to experience. But when it comes to faith, our limits are removed and we believe beyond what we can see, touch, or hear. We believe in a God who is outside of all our limits. We walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:6-7
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.
It’s a faith-filled move to believe beyond ourselves when the Lord is the Master of our lives. This doesn’t mean we won’t experience disappointment or challenge. But we can always believe that God is powerful enough to take care of our situations. He is not stymied by a lack of weaponry. In His infinite mercy, He chose a position of utter and complete humiliation on the Cross of Calvary. But in that bloodshed and death, is His victory. And He won that victory for us. No one would have looked upon the bloodied and broken body of Jesus Christ and seen the most magnificent weapon in the history of the world. But there He was, strong enough to buy us back from the power of sin and death. God doesn’t need iron swords. He only needs the Love of the Father for His people that was strong enough to die in our place, and strong enough to come back from the grave so that we will too.